Fears oil drilling to blame for 'highly unusual' number of dead dolphins

This porpoise, along with seven other marine mammals, have been found dead along the Dorset coast (Source: Andy Earley)

Wildlife experts are raising their concerns after eight marine mammals washed up along the Dorset coast during a three-week period.

Since February 4, six dolphins and porpoises, and two seals, have been discovered dead by the public and conservation experts are worried the deaths could be linked to a nearby oil well drilling that started this month.

Emma Rance, a marine conservation officer at the Dorset Wildlife Trust, told Yahoo News UK: “I have looked back into records between 2005 and 2013 and on average for January and February there are usually only two or three strandings.

“In fact, I remember in the whole of winter there would only be two or three, so having eight is highly unusual.”

“We do not know for sure what the cause of death is but given the location of the oil rig in an area of rich marine life we are very concerned.

“Dolphins, whales and seals are at the high end of the food chain and so they can tell a story with their bodies about the state of our oceans and seas.”

Harbour seal found stranded on Southbourne beach (Source: Sarah Proctor)

The trust is now working with the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, the official organisation for marine strandings, to establish the animals’ cause of death.

Miss Rance said: “It’s 2019, we are part of the Paris Climate Agreement, we have a Climate Change Act.

“We should not be drilling deep into the seabed for fossil fuels in one of the country’s most important marine areas when we have many renewable energy options.”

The drilling, carried out by Corallion Energy, had been due to start earlier this year but as a result of  operational reasons the rig arrived late, meaning it will not finish on the original end date of February 28.

Mrs Rance said the extension means it will continue drilling into March, when the migration and spawning season for many animals will begin.

When contacted by Yahoo News UK, Corallian Energy declined to comment.

The DWT is urging anyone who finds a marine mammal washed up to report it immediately by calling 01305 264620 or emailing enquiries@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk and reminds them to take a photograph of the animal but not to touch it.